Yelich deal caps impressive offseason

JUPITER, Fla. — Locking up Christian Yelich long-term is a fitting way to cap what’s been one of the most impressive offseasons in Marlins history.

The seven-year, $49.570 million extension, which includes an option for an eighth season, keeps the 23-year-old left fielder in Miami at least through 2021. It also means two-thirds of one of the best outfields in the National League will be around for a while.

Miami started off its offseason by signing Giancarlo Stanton to his record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract.

Here’s some background on how the Yelich deal came together.

Even though Yelich likely is the last major signing before Opening Day, all along he was one of the organization’s highest priorities. I say likely only because Cuban infielder Hector Olivera remains a free agent possibility.

Regarding Yelich, immediately after the 2014 season ended, the Marlins had made it clear they wanted to lock up some of their core pre-arbitration eligible players. Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria and Jose Fernandez all were approached about extensions.

But early on, offseason priority No. 1 was Stanton. While many wondered if Miami would try to sign their young core first as a sign of commitment to show Stanton, the club went in the opposite direction.

We see now how smart that strategy was.

All their efforts were on getting Stanton to buy in, and they succeeded in doing so at the November general managers meetings. Officially, the record-setting signing was announced on Nov. 19.

Once they had Stanton, the front office kept in touch with the core four. Talks didn’t progress much, if at all, even with Yelich.

Phase II of the offseason was addressing needs. Trades were made for Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Mat Latos and Dan Haren. And the major free agent signing was Michael Morse in mid-December. Ichiro Suzuki signed in mid-January.

Even then, the Marlins had in mind locking up at least one of their core four. But there was no need to rush.

Mike Dunn avoided arbitration by signing a two-year deal. By mid-January it was clear that Fernandez and Ozuna, both represented by Scott Boras, were willing to wait. Not much progress was made with Hechavarria, either.

All along there was a feeling Yelich could get done. Again, there were more pressing matters from the team’s side.

Until late January, the Marlins were in on James Shields, who later signed with the Padres.

Miami even pursued closer Francisco Rodriguez, dangling a two-year, $10 million offer at the veteran reliever.

As the club got deeper into Spring Training, the organization revisited Yelich, hoping to get a deal done by Opening Day. When the salary figure topped the seven-year, $41 million contract Anthony Rizzo signed with the Cubs in 2013, talks progressed rapidly.

On Wednesday, an agreement was reached, securing Yelich’s services in South Florida for the foreseeable future.

Joe Frisaro

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